Assisting Deaf Ukrainian Refugees in the Transition

We have been fairly quiet on social media these past several months, but a lot of great things have been happening. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, DeafBridge was the first nonprofit organization specifically for the Deaf to arrive at the border of Romania and Ukraine. With our history of working with the Deaf of Ukraine, the understanding of the language and the culture helped tremendously in providing humanitarian assistance to those displaced by the war.

Roman driving for DeafBridge

You may recall from earlier posts that DeafBridge had a team of drivers evacuating the Deaf and their families from various areas of Ukraine, including the occupied territories near the Russian boarder. Our very first driver was Roman. Chris knew Roman from his previous work with the Deaf camps in Eastern Ukraine. Roman contacted Chris for help getting his family to safety. As Roman witnessed the sacrifice and dedication Chris showed in helping others evacuate to safety, he returned, once his family was safe, and volunteered to drive rescue missions for DeafBridge. Roman became our first full-time driver and led several rescue and relief operations into occupied areas and other cities and villages across Ukraine. Roman lost count of how many families he was personally able to bring to safety although a conservative estimate is 400-500 individuals. He was eventually joined by 8 other drivers so the numbers of lives rescued became even greater.

Roman went deep into the front lines of the war and brought out some of Ukraine’s most vulnerable citizens, including the elderly, the Deaf, children, and the disabled. He also brought in food and supplies to those that couldn’t get these items themselves. Roman was truly a hero to so many lives. But soon the death and destruction began to take its toll. He witnessed streets lined with the dead and wounded, endured seemingly constant bombings, missile attacks, and gunfire, thankfully making it out each time without taking a hit. Yet with images forever imprinted in his mind that are too graphic and gruesome to convey here in words. Friends gone, homes and livelihoods destroyed, constant stress wondering how to survive another day, yet no time to think about it too long and some nights no time to even stop and sleep. Finally he contacted Chris and said that he was done. He needed a break.

Basic first aid and trauma care training- Roman holding a tourniquet.

PTSD is very real among many of the team members of DeafBridge and a break was needed to help them cope and be able to return to their families whole. We urged Roman to go be with his family. He went to be with his family, Chris returned to America and they both began the debriefing and healing process. Then the attacks against Roman’s home region of Sumy escalated again and he decided it was time to leave for good. He sold his auto mechanic/bodyshop business of 30 years, packed a few belongings, and left his home and all the rest behind.

Meanwhile, back in Texas, Chris and Stacey began discussing how they could bring Roman and his family to America. DeafBridge had assisted other families as they moved to various countries in Europe and even America. Roman’s family eventually made their way to Germany on a temporary visa but needed to find a permanent solution soon or they would be forced to return to Ukraine. With just weeks to spare, the sponsorship was approved and the family received their travel documents. DeafBridge purchased their plane tickets and the family flew to Texas. Roman is now working at a local autobody shop and his family is adjusting to small town Texas life. Roman hopes to eventually start his own body shop in Texas, but also wants to join DeafBridge back in Ukraine once he is able.

Chris with Roman, his wife, daughter, and mother-in-law, safely in America!

We want to thank you for your prayers and support. Roman’s family is just one example of many lives forever changed, and thanks to your ongoing generosity the rescue and relief operations can continue. Chris and a team (now also comprised of combat medics and former military) have been training and plan to return to train others to save lives. We will share more about that in a later blog.

Дуже дякую i Слава богу!

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